Tonight The Music Seems So Loud

When I was growing up, I knew from an early age that my mama and daddy didn’t share the same taste in music. There was some common ground, of course – they both enjoyed standards from the 50s and 60s – but Daddy mostly listened to country music (Charlie Pride, Ray Stevens, Willie Nelson, and the like), while Mama preferred classical music. Or pop classical, at least.

Music Box Dancer, anyone?

Oh, my mama loved it. She also loved the soothing stylings of Ferrante & Teicher, a piano-playing duo whose eight-track tapes filled Mama’s Ford LTD glove box to overflowing.

Wouldn’t you love to know where they got those jackets? And those wigs?

Mama always claimed that it was “sooooo relaxin'” to listen to instrumental music in the car, and I think she was right considering that I typically wanted to take a nap after listening to one of her eight-tracks for five whole minutes. What I couldn’t understand, though, was why she enjoyed that music as much as she did. It just sounded so boring to me. Plus, I was more than a little aggravated that I couldn’t listen to my music from Xanadu or Grease while we ran our errands. Thankfully I had an older brother and sister who loved to listen to The Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins and James Taylor and Earth, Wind & Fire, but if I was riding in the car with Mama, I might as well accept my pop classical piano music fate. She adored it.

And really, why wouldn’t she?

That’s my musical heritage, y’all.

Like most children, I vowed and declared that when I was a grown-up, I would never listen to instrumental music in the car. I told myself that when I became a mama, I would be sure to listen to really cool music that kids would also like. You know, awesome stuff like The Theme from “The Greatest American Hero” and Jessie’s Girl. Or maybe even Tainted Love if I was feeling particularly sophisticated – since the people who sang it had fancy British accents and all.

When our little guy was born, I really did make a point to be Very Intentional about what we listened to in the car. We wore out some Veggie Tales CD’s until he was about four, and then we gradually made the switch to Christian music – mostly praise and worship. Eventually we added our favorite singer / songwriters (Dave Barnes, Ben Rector, Gabe Dixon) to the mix, plus bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and The Fray. I’ve always used sports talk radio as a fall-back if I wasn’t in the mood for a sing-along, but over the last year I’ve noticed that the language has gotten increasingly colorful and not so appropriate for little ears. I’ve tried listening to Christian talk radio, but to be honest it’s a little difficult for me to get interested in a radio host’s thoughtful analysis of dispensationalism when I’m trying to run five or eight errands in a 90-minute window between school and soccer practice.

(And listen. I know that right now some of you are probably thinking, Why do you have to listen to anything? Why not just ride around with the radio / CD player / iPod turned off? Why not just enjoy some silence?)

(Well. Because that solution would be way too simple. And also way too quiet. That’s why.)

A few weeks ago I decided to hit the “scan” button on my radio and see if there was something new or different that might work as a more laid-back listening option, and I ran across a jazz station that’s run by Samford University. I figured I’d give it a try, and I have to say that much to my surprise, IT IS A DELIGHT. There are no screaming DJ’s, no commercials – just “Birmingham’s Smooth Jazz.” The little guy has been a good sport about it, even though a couple of days ago he reminded me of my own eight year-old self when he said, “Gosh, Mama – we sure have been listening to this music a lot lately.” But I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy the fact that there aren’t any lyrics; it’s a nice change of pace, especially in the mornings.

Today we were on the way to school, chatting on and off while my new favorite station played softly in the background. We had just pulled up to a stop sign when I thought, Hold on. That sounds a little familiar. I think I might know that song. And when I turned up the volume, this is what I heard.

WAY TO ROCK IT, MAMAW. I mean, I don’t know what kind of full circle moment it is when you start listening to the jazz / easy listening version of music from your junior high days, but I confronted that milestone this morning. And I’ll have you know that I not only confronted that milestone; I walked around it, stared at it awhile, wondered how I felt about it, then threw my arms around it and happily embraced it for several minutes. Because regardless of how much I loved George Michael’s music when I was a teenager, it turns out that an instrumental version of his songs suits my 40s just fine.

And while I can’t say for sure, I have to admit that there’s at least a small possibility that I’m going to hop on the iTunes in the next day or two and see if there’s any Ferrante & Teicher music I need to download.

Clearly Mama was on to something. And as much as it kills me to admit it, I’m guessing that it probably would be “sooooo relaxin'” to listen to them now.

Because I Don’t Want To Miss The Fun

Nester and Kelly are each hosting a Christmas Tour of Homes right now, and even though I wasn’t planning to participate because I didn’t think I’d have time to pull a post together, yesterday I thought, Hey! I like Christmas! I like decorations! – and even though my decorations are nothing spectacular, they feel like home to our little family. So I thought I’d share.

This is the tree in our little boy’s room. I can take absolutely no credit for it because my mama decorated it when I was in Ecuador last month. But the little man is crazy about it, and I love walking down the hall and getting a glimpse of those lights.

Our tree looks a lot like it always does. For the last couple of years we’ve had colored lights instead of white lights, and I am a fan. I think white lights are so elegant, but Mama used to put colored lights on our tree when I was a little girl, so I have continued that tradition. Of course, Mama uses white lights on her tree now, but I’m going to stick with the colored lights. It’s A MATTER OF CHRISTMASTIME PRINCIPLE, PEOPLE.

Also, I should probably point out that Mama also decorated our main tree while I was in Ecuador. It makes me feel just the tiniest bit like a slacker, but more than anything it makes me resolved to plan a mid-November trip EVERY SINGLE YEAR FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

All I’m sayin’ is that it was delightful to walk in the house after a week away and find two beautifully decorated trees. THANKS, MAMA!

(Mama doesn’t actually read my blog.)

(She’s fond of saying that she certainly can’t get on the Internet considering that she’s not even sure how to “turn on the email.”)

I don’t know if this plant actually falls into the Christmas category or not, but I saw it at a local nursery a couple of weeks ago and decided that it needed to live with us. It was in the middle of all the poinsettias and miniature Christmas trees and rosemary shrubs and whathaveyou, so I told myself that it’s a Christmas plant and brought it home and the end.

We don’t have a mantel over our fireplace (note to self: after five years in this house, it might be time to remedy that situation), so I hang our stockings on the circa-1974 bar that sits in a corner of our living room. It’s one of those unique-to-this-house traditions that makes me smile, mainly because it’s not really the most typical place to put some stockings (“Their stockings were hung by the wet bar with care / In the hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there but resist the temptation to rifle through the cabinets and fix himself a hot toddy”).

We don’t actually have any alcohol in or around the wet bar, mind you, but still: I am tickled by the notion of stockings hanging on a bar. WACKY BAPTIST, I AM.

Last year Alex’s teacher asked us to send in 350 strips of fabric, and after I finished breathing into my favorite paper bag that I keep on hand specifically for craft-related meltdowns, I went to the fabric store and waved the instruction sheet in the general direction of a couple of sales clerks while I tried not to panic in the presence of all those notions and needles and specialty scissors. After I bought the fabric, my sister had mercy on me and cut every single one of those fabric strips in approximately seven minutes.

You may be picking up on the fact that my family members tend to stand in the gap for me where Things Crafty are concerned. They understand that, if I’m left to my own devices, any task requiring scissors and/or thread is going to turn real ugly real fast.

ANYWAY (WAS THERE EVEN A POINT TO THIS STORY?), I think the fabric wreath is as cute as it can be, and I hung it on our back door as a reminder that the Lord always sends people to walk with us through difficult craft-related times.


I hung some ornaments on the chandelier in our dining room, and this is a picture of that and also sort of a picture of one of my feather trees. And I don’t really know what else to say about that.


And listen. This is what you call DECORATIONS GONE AWRY. I found that orange bird at a flea market in my hometown, and I wanted to put it in the center of the main wreath in our dining room. But then I realized that attaching the bird to the wreath would require some sort of wire or fishing line or whatever, and I was all, NO THANK YOU, MA’AM, I BELIEVE THE BIRD WOULD JUST LIKE TO REST ON THE WINDOW SILL.

Really, I’m just here to inspire you to reach for the decorative stars. I feel that it’s my mission and purpose in life. Go big or, well, just give up and fix yourself a Diet Coke and watch that Selling Spelling Manor show on HGTV because she has ONE HUNDRED FIFTY NINE toy soldiers that she bought at Los Angeles-area Costcos.


This is one of our Nativity sets. Normally it’s spread out a little bit more, but Alex set it up and I just left it alone. I can’t decide if the cow and the donkey are feeling anti-social or if they’re standing guard over baby Jesus, but either way: DELIGHTFUL.

I have a child who enjoys a Christmas countdown, so we have several different countdown items in our breakfast room. One is the chalkboard – a gift from A.’s sweet kindergarten teacher.

I found this countdown placemat at Target right after Thanksgiving, and it’s been a huge hit what with the spinny wheel that you use to change the date and all.

This Advent wreath makes my heart melt a little every time I look at it. I ordered it from Ann’s son Caleb, and all the profits go to Compassion International. We’ve been using one candle throughout Advent, but on Christmas Eve, we’re going to light ‘er up with 24. For me this wreath has been a great visual reminder that with every day of Advent we inch a little bit closer to the birth of Jesus; with every day of Advent we move a little bit closer to the manger.

Somebody really needs to sing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” right now.

Seriously. I’ll start. Y’all chime in with some harmony.

Finally (FINALLY!), this is our Christmas card tree. I started putting a Christmas card tree in our playroom about five years ago when we got a free tree from Home Depot (it was a Thanksgiving sale promotion). This year the Christmas card tree looks a little sad because we haven’t gotten a whole lot of cards yet, but I’m holding out hope that the tree will be filled to overflowing by the end of next week. Since most of our friends have kids who are 10 and up, the cards don’t roll in quite as fast as furious as they did when everybody had toddlers and couldn’t wait to share a picture of their young’uns wearing various and sundry smocked clothing items on the beach.

Those were good Christmas card times.

So. There you have it. My (endless) (non-crafty) Christmas tour. I hope I didn’t put you to sleep, but if I did, I certainly hope you enjoy your nap.

Be Merry, y’all.

Getting My Bearings. -Ish.

Apparently I made an unconscious decision last week to spend untold energy thinking about Things That Are Getting On My Last Nerve (2011 edition). Oh my. I WAS A PILL. I would blame it on jet lag, but there’s only a one hour time difference between Ecuador and Alabama. And for the first part of the week I thought maybe I was just tired (which was a valid assumption considering the fact that I’ve never been more in love with sleep than I was last week…I liked it so much that I totally would’ve put a ring on it if I could have).

But now that I have the benefit of a little bit of perspective, I think I was a little bit, well, ticked. I was mad that I slipped back into my comfortable suburban life so easily. I was mad about the poverty of my own dadgum spirit. I was mad because a family member had another setback with her health, and she’s been through more in the last few years than anybody I know. I was mad about everything that I needed to get done last week when all I really wanted to do was crawl in my bed. I was mad when the dishwasher didn’t empty itself and the clothes didn’t hop from the washer to the dryer and THE DVR DID NOT RECORD “THE OFFICE” EVEN THOUGH WE SPECIFICALLY TOLD IT TO RECORD “THE OFFICE,” CLEARLY EVEN THE ELECTRONICS ARE CONSPIRING AGAINST ME.

So I think the bottom line is that the whole re-entry thing forced me to take a long, hard look at my spoiled American self. And oh. I did not care for what I saw. I did not care for what I saw at all.

It’s getting better, though. The fog is lifting a little bit. We’ve had a whole bunch of family time over the last few days, and it’s helped a lot. Because you know how there are some husbands who see their wives going through a touch-y transition and they’re all “Oh, I’ll back off and give her some space and she’ll talk when she’s ready to talk?”

I am not married to that person.

However, I am married to the person who says, “Woman, you’re about to miss a whole bunch of fun with your people if you don’t get up out of that bed, so GET ON UP OUT OF THAT BED BECAUSE WE’RE GONNA MAKE HAPPY MEMORIES IF IT KILLS US. HAPPPPP-Y MEMORIES!”

And then he’ll make up a really bad song in a silly voice that’s kind of a cross between Rosco P. Coltrane and anyone who lives in the southernmost portion of Louisiana.

And do you know what I do?

I get up and go. And it’s good.

Plus, this week we have family coming to town for Thanksgiving, and I’m always a happy camper when I get to spend a couple of days chopping and mixing and cooking for a crew of people. Martha actually called me last night to confirm what she’s going to bring, and she was delighted to tell me that she’s going to bring a lemon pound cake and a sweet potato pie and a pecan pie and a congealed salad and is that enough? Do I think that’s enough? Am I sure that’s enough?

I bet you a dollar to a donut that she ends up bringing an Italian cream cake, too. Because WHAT IF WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH?

I’ll put Mama in charge of the dressing when she gets to our house – she has a talent for chopping onion and celery into the tiniest, most perfectly shaped pieces – and then I’ll do the pork tenderloin, lima beans, rolls, asparagus casserole and sweet potato casserole. I’m going to let Honeybaked Ham bake the, you know, ham, and we’re not going to have turkey because a few years ago we discovered that nobody particularly enjoys it.

We were going through the turkey motions, y’all.

And it was time to stop pretending.

What are your big Turkey Day (or Non-Turkey, as it were) plans? Is there one certain dish that you cannot wait to see in the Thanksgiving Day line-up? Because I’ll go ahead and tell you that sweet potato casserole is my FAVORITE. My SHUT-IT-DOWN, MAMA’S-GONNA-HAVE-ANOTHER-HELPING-FOR-DESSERT favorite.

What about you?

Soup For You!

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a really annoying habit of being completely gung-ho about a certain food and then cooking / serving it so frequently that my people burn out on it and never want to see it again. In any form. BECAUSE I’VE RURNT IT FOREVER.

This pattern hit full force when D and I were newlyweds. I kept about five things in constant rotation and proceeded to WEAR THEM SLAP OUT: chicken marinated and baked in Worcestershire sauce, chicken & broccoli casserole, shrimp & wild rice casserole, chicken spaghetti, and Martha’s chicken pie.

You should know that the fall-out from the constant repetition of these dishes was deep and long-lasting. I haven’t cooked Worcestershire chicken in over twelve years. I made chicken & broccoli casserole for the first time in a sweet forever about two years ago, and my husband experienced flashbacks so severe that he was unable to finish his meal. Same for chicken spaghetti and chicken pie. I have managed to gradually work shrimp & wild rice casserole back into our holiday meals as a side dish, but please know that this was only possible after a lengthy season of professional counseling as well as a fresh work of the Holy Spirit.

He is able, y’all. He is able.

The only up side to my food obsessions is that I can pretty much associate any year of our marriage with whatever meals happened to be in rotation at the time. 2000? Ground beef & noodle casserole. 2001? My friend NK’s recipe for tortilla soup. 2002? Taco soup. 2003? Chicken & wild rice casserole. 2004? Spaghetti & spinach casserole.

I’ll spare you the last six years, but suffice it to say that old habits die hard. And also: after the last ten months, I’ll be totally surprised if anyone in this family is still eating roasted asparagus in 2012.

Last night I was trying to figure out what to fix for supper, and after a quick inventory of my refrigerator and pantry, it dawned on me that I had everything I needed for one of my old stand-bys – a stand-by that I haven’t made in a long time. Once I weighed all my options and decided that my marriage could withstand an appearance by this particular food friend from our past, I quickly assembled all the ingredients and turned on the stove. After about five minutes I couldn’t help but smile when a still-familiar smell started to fill up the kitchen.

And at that point I walked to the den, looked at my husband and said, “Tonight’s supper is brought to you by 2002. TACO SOUP.”

Y’all, I kid you not. He looked like he wanted to cry.

He recovered quickly, though, and tried to muster up as much enthusiasm as he could manage. Then he half-heartedly said, “Oh, good. We haven’t had that in, um, A WHILE.”

I explained that I happened to have all the stuff for taco soup on hand, and since there was a hint of a chill in the air, I thought it might be tasty – especially since I don’t think I’ve fixed it in the almost five years that we’ve lived in this house. D said that sounded like a fine idea to him, and at that point I thought it would be best to leave well enough alone. I figured he needed a few minutes of solitude to work through his very complex taco soup-related feelings. I didn’t encourage him to pray about it or anything like that, but I’m pretty sure that when I walked back by the den a few minutes later I heard him whispering The Lord’s Prayer and then begging God for strength.

When it was time for supper, D bravely fixed his bowl of soup, and as he got ready to sit down, he grinned really big and said, “Alex? Do you know that before you were born your mama and I used to eat taco soup all the time? ALL THE TIME? And do you know that there were lots of Saturdays in the fall when your mama would make a big pot of taco soup, and we would eat it on Saturday? And Sunday? And Monday, too? Because we ate A LOT OF TACO SOUP?”

Alex started to giggle, and I said, “I know. I know. Is it too much for me to expect you to eat it again? Are you having flashbacks?”

“I’m really not,” D answered. “You know, taco soup is actually one of my favorite soups – and I like it more when I’m not eating it every single weekend.”

So see? As far as I’m concerned, he totally gave me permission to re-introduce it to the suppertime line-up. TACO SOUP IS BACK, Y’ALL. Fall 2011 is gonna be the best one ever.

What about you? Have you burned out your people on any particular food / casserole / soup? Anything that might make them shudder if they saw it on the dinner table one more time? Understand that I’ll absolutely be making my next grocery list from your comments. That’s what you call EFFICIENT MEALTIME PLANNING, my friends.

Happy Monday, y’all.

It’s A Lesser-Known Interpretation But Effective All The Same

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the Bulldogs have sort of a big game tonight. They’re playing (on ESPN, no less) a little team called the LSU Tigers, also known as The Quickest Men Alive.TM The Tigers are, in my opinion, the best team in the country right now, which means that by the end of the game tonight I will have either enthusiastically vacuumed every single inch of our house or fallen into a deep, dip-induced stupor and vowed that I will not leave the comfort of my bed until Saturday.

I’m very level-headed and logical when it comes to college football. You may have noticed that.

Anyway, three or four days ago, when I was still replaying the last 25 seconds of the State/Auburn game in my head and trying to figure out a way that I could TURN BACK THE TIME AND ALSO THE OFFICIALS’ HEADS WHEN COACH MULLEN WAS TRYING TO CALL TIME OUT (there. I said it.), I was looking through iPhoto for an old picture from the 2007 Egg Bowl when I ran across this little gem.

If memory serves, we were outside playing one day when the little man – who was four at the time – started humming the Mississippi State fight song (train up a child, way he should go, etc. and so on and so forth). So I ran inside and grabbed my laptop, then set it on the table on the porch and cranked ‘er up.

However, the little fella apparently felt like he could best execute his sah-weet dance moves to a slower version of the fight song. Perhaps the faster arrangement rushed him through the subtle nuances of his “HAIIIIII-YAH!” step. We may never know.

But regardless, the four year-old in this four year-old video is more than likely gonna do me a world of good in terms of keeping tonight’s game in perspective. Mainly because he CRACKS ME UP, and, you know, I’d take one day with him over a bajillionty wins against LSU.

Which is a good thing considering that State hasn’t beaten LSU in 12 years.



Sic ’em, ‘Dogs.

It May Be The Best Tuesday Ever

Now y’all know that I love me some music.

And today? Oh, it is a VERY GOOD DAY FOR THE MUSIC.

So here are two things that may or may not change your life forever but will certainly make it better in untold wonderful ways.

(Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much the same exact thing as changing your life.)

(Honestly, I don’t know why anybody puts up with me. I am a case study in redundancy.)

(And I also say the same thing over and over again, only in different ways.)

Okay. First thing.

Travis Cottrell‘s new worship CD, When The Stars Burn Down, is out today, and OH MY MERCY IT IS INCREDIBLE. The word that comes to mind every single time I listen to it is declaration – because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a strong declaration of who God is, how His love transforms our lives and why He is worthy of every single bit of our praise.

I’m crazy about so many of the new songs. I adore Travis’ arrangement of “All My Fountains,” and I feel like “I’m Changed” is the story of my life. “When The Stars Fall Down” stops me in my tracks every single time. And on top of all that, I really do believe that “The Word of God Has Spoken” is one of the most powerful corporate worship songs in a long, long time. I’ve listened to it so much that the other morning the little man asked, “Mama? Why is this song always playing in your car?”

What can I say? I tend to play something over and over and over when it speaks to me. And “The Word of God Has Spoken” definitely does that. Which is why I’ve listened to it approximately 416 times.

The whole CD is a treasure, and it has ministered to my heart like crazy over the last couple of weeks. Seriously. You have no idea. I really can’t recommend When The Stars Fall Down enough, and you can download your very own copy from iTunes. It’s absolutely beautiful worship music, and it’s chock full of Truth. So, so good.

Y’all are going to love it.

Next thing.

Over the last year Ben Rector has become one of my very favorite singer/songwriters, and his CD called In The Morning was at the top of my “best of” list for 2010 (it is an absolutely brilliant CD, and if you don’t have it, you need it). Ben is crazy gifted, deeply talented, and best of all, he’s genuinely humble. Not to mention humbly genuine. That’s a tough combination to beat, y’all.

Ben has a new CD that’s out today. It’s called Something Like This, and even though I just downloaded the songs early this morning, I can already tell that I wouldn’t have missed this CD for the world. Even at first listen it’s full of great, smart pop music with all sorts of wonderful influences (big band, jazz, soul, etc.) that you can listen to with your kids in the car and not be afraid that they’re going to add some colorful new words to their vocabulary. It’s also pretty swoon-y and romantic in places, and that’s so rare these days.

So giddy up, bloggy people.

Great new music from Travis and Ben today.

We’re more fortunate than we know.

p.s. Nobody asked me, paid me or offered me free fried chicken to mention these CDs. I didn’t get anything for free, and the only reason I got Travis’ CD a little early is because we pre-ordered it through Kickstarter. Just thought I’d clarify in case you were wondering. The end.

Enjoy, y’all!